A fair number of vaudeville and cinema palaces built in the early portion of the 20th century across North America have gained new life over the past two decades, often restored to their original form to serve as popular live performance venues.
One of the latest to experience a new lease on life is the Beacham Theater in downtown Orlando, which re-opened its doors earlier this year to host live music performances featuring national and regional acts.
Originally opened in 1921, by the mid-1980s the theater had been transformed into a nightclub space under the name of Zuma Beach and then Tabu, a South Beach-style club of the “VIP lounge” genre popular in the late 1990s.
Last year, ownership decided to shift to presenting live music, and embarked on returning the venue back to its roots, albeit with modern production elements that includes a new concert-level reinforcement system designed and installed by Heavier Than Gravity, an Orlando-based systems and production company.
The renovated main room at the Beacham Theater offers a capacity of 1,250, anchored by a large proscenium stage. The main floor extends back roughly 110 feet, and the room is relatively wide at 90 feet. A balcony spans the rear of the room, and it’s all topped by a ceiling maintaining a consistent 30-foot height.
“There was a lot of structural work that needed to be done before we could think about installing a sound system,” explains Jeff Kenney, owner of Heaver Than Gravity. “One of the first moves was to tear down and build a new stage big enough to accommodate live bands. We also solved power issues by adding a new service panel, and we brought in an engineering firm to reinforce the ceiling structure in order to accommodate the truss system for lights and the new loudspeakers.”
A perspective of the Beacham Theater from the balcony.
During the renovation, the venue continued to function as Tabu, which added challenges to the project, not only from a “clean up and have the club ready to function each evening” standpoint, but also in terms of system performance issues.
For example, Tabu required a “techno” low end that’s a big part of dance tracks, a dilemma that was handled without a problem when the sound team transitioned to new EAW SB1002 dual-18 subwoofers that are also a staple of live systems.